Objective: To investigate early predictors of sleep patterns in pre-school age children. Specifically, we were interested in exploring whether infant sleep patterns and parenting factors assessed at 12 months would predict sleep in four year-old children.
Methods: This was a follow-up study of a home-based longitudinal study, exploring the links between parental cognitions and children's sleep. The present study included 71 families (boys 58%) and focused on data collected when children were 12 months and four years old. Sleep at both time points was assessed for four weekdays by actigraphy and parental reports.
Results: Statistically significant zero-order correlations were found between early sleep patterns, maternal cognitions, and soothing behaviors at 12 months, and sleep patterns at four years. Multiple regression analysis revealed that 12 months maternal cognitions reflecting difficulties with limiting parental nighttime involvement were a statistically significant predictor of fragmented child's sleep and of parental bedtime involvement at four years. More objective infant night-wakings at 12 months predicted lower sleep efficiency at four years.
Conclusions: Both early sleep patterns and maternal sleep-related cognitions during infancy are significant predictors of sleep quality of pre-school children. These findings are clinically meaningful as they suggest that improving infant sleep and addressing early parental beliefs and perceptions regarding infant sleep may help in preventing sleep problems of pre-school children.
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